Forty years of metal detecting hunts


Rich Creason | For The Tines-Post

It was 1974. Another day of driving home from work in Pendleton.

I had just crossed Fall Creek and was approaching the intersection at Huntsville. Instead of turning east toward home, I turned west and pulled into the driveway at a metal detector shop on the southwest corner.

I had passed this business many times, and often thought of stopping there and looking inside. That day, I did just that.

The shop had a wide variety of metal detectors and assorted accessories. They also had displays of coins, relics and other items that had been found with these machines.

I had read about doing this and decided it was time to purchase one and find things myself.

I chose a White’s Coinmaster 4. Cost was around $250. It had a huge, blue control box that contained all the electronics, plus 14 AA batteries.

It weighed a ton.

Lee Sanzo, the owner, guided me through assembling the machine and taught me how to use it.

While Lee is not in the business of selling detectors anymore, I still see him almost every month at our East Central Indiana Treasure Hunters meeting.

I took my new hobby home and immediately began searching my yard for lost objects.

I was excited when I dug my first penny. I then found other coins, a key, foil, bottle caps, nails and other assorted junk.

When my finds began to decrease, I took my detector to my parents’ farm and started hunting there.

I found more of the same, plus a few horseshoes. I tried a few more places without finding lost gold or silver and ended up putting the detector in the closet.

In 1978, I was reading a Western and Eastern Treasures magazine and saw an ad for a treasure hunt in Chesterfield at the North 40 Campground.

I didn’t really know what happened at these hunts, but it said I could find coins and prizes with my detector. I had to try it once. There was a small entry fee. I think it was $10 for the Saturday and Sunday hunts.

I arrived at the site early on the Saturday morning. I talked to some of the other entrants and learned the sponsors of the hunt, Prospector’s Club International, had buried silver coins, old nickels and pennies, plus tokens with numbers good for assorted prizes.

There would be three or four separate hunts during the day.

The participants lined up around a marked-off field, and when the starter sounded the horn, everyone began swinging their detectors. When my detector beeped, I dug the target out of the ground and quickly moved on to the next.

The hunt lasted 30 minutes, although after 10 or 15, most of the buried items were already found.

My wife, Susie, and our 4-year-old daughter, Angi, stayed home that day.

I took my coins and several prizes home and showed them my treasure.

On the second day, they decided to come and watch me. I was getting better at this and found more coins and prizes.

One was a $40 entry fee into a huge Texas treasure hunt where first prize was a new truck! I knew I wouldn’t be going to that, so I sold it to another hunter for $25.

My first hunt was a huge success. I told Susie there was another one of these events the next weekend near Seymour, and I was going.

This would be another two-day hunt, so we bought a tent and some camping gear and planned on our first campout.

This would take place at Wray’s Treasure Shop and would be our first of many we attended there during the next 40 years.

The first hunt of the day was a partners hunt. One participant had to be a paid entrant, while the second was unpaid.

One would swing the machine and find the target, and the second would dig it up.

At the end of the hunt, the finds would be counted for prizes.

Susie and I, while barely knowing what we were doing, took second place and won two silver half-dollars.

Before leaving the second day, we discovered these hunts took place almost every weekend throughout the summer.

Susie said if we were going to keep doing this, I needed to buy her a detector. We also got one for our daughter. I was hooked.

The next weekend, the hunt was near Peoria, Illinois. We went. Then, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan.

During the next 40 years, we attended these paid or “seeded” hunts in other states, including Florida, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Iowa, and Ontario, Canada.

Some were one-day hunts. Most were two days, and several were weeklong. Our camping gear went from a small tent, to a two-roomer, a truck with a camper shell, a used motor home and finally, a new motor home (which is now more than 20 years old).

Through the years, many of these hunts have died out, some new ones have started, and others are in their second and third decades of hunts.

We still attend these events yearly in southern Indiana (Starve Hollow State Recreation Area), eastern Ohio, and Ontario, across from Niagara Falls. We occasionally attend an annual Civil War relic hunt in Texas and Virginia. There is a relic hunt in Mississippi we plan to attend this fall. There is a new one in Berea, Kentucky, we might try this year, plus a possibility of going to one in North Dakota.

I am a lot older now than when we started doing this. I am a lot slower now than 40 years ago, and it’s harder to bend over (and stand back up!), but we hunt with guys 15 and 20 years older than us. I figure if they can still do it, I can, too.

The author may be reached at

[email protected].

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